There are many different types of computer and information systems in healthcare, all of which have the potential to benefit both patients and staff. In my unit, the main use of this type of system is electronic health information, or records, which are used in the sense of both the individual patient and the community. The benefits of this include data-supported decision-making, and this is one of the main uses that I have seen from the software personally. Data-supported decision-making can help to reduce the number of mistakes made in a healthcare scenario as nurses can cross-reference specific patient information with other relevant data, such as that found in scholarly journals or from case studies on similar patients (Ahmadi, Gorzin & Khoshgam, 2013). This makes the decision-making process much safer and faster, allowing me to deal with more patients than I would be able to without computer access.
Another use of this technology that I have seen is for population health management, although this is not specifically done in my current unit. Taking information from electronic health records can be used as a way of mining information about the community, which benefits public health nurses and other officials. From this data, schemes can be devised that focus on the specific needs of a certain population, and these are more effective than making an assessment on general statistics alone (Ahmadi et al., 2013). My current unit also uses informatics to detect abuse in at-risk individuals. These patients can then be referred to specific services that help deal with abuse, potentially saving their lives (Rutherford et al., 2014).
Computers are the main type of hardware used in my unit. These have access to the internet and a local intranet through which information can be shared. This has been particularly useful in terms of communicable disease outbreaks in the unit and in the local area – we know to take extra precautions and to look out for symptoms of these diseases in ourselves and in patients. The intranet is also used to inform staff members of upcoming education and training, and links to an e-mail system where we receive information that is specific to ourselves. The intranet is one of the most useful tools because it is both specific to each staff member and general to the hospital, meaning that it is easier for us to communicate with other staff members. This intranet is the main type of software used, although there are a number of other tools, including software that provides information about drug-drug interactions and the local CMS that keeps patient notes.
My ward currently uses electronic documentation. Wong et al. (2016) suggest that in the ward scenario, electronic documentation is much faster for vital sign observations than paper, as well as reducing the number of errors from transcribing handwritten notes. This highlights the use of this type of system in the ward scenario and the way in which we use it on my unit – it is used for storing patient notes and for making vital sign observations. These can then be referred back to at a later date to make an assessment about patient needs.
The majority of the standardized terminology that we use on our unit is similar to that found in other clinical settings and it helps improve communication among nurses. One example is the change of description for the size of wounds – it has moved from being described as “small” “medium” or “large” to a more standardized measurement, which means that nurses easily understand each other and the needs of the patient.